Tags: Texas | Executions | Retarded | May | End

Texas Executions of Retarded May End

Thursday, 24 May 2001 12:00 AM

A compromise was reached on the bill and after final approval in the House and Senate it will go to Republican Gov. Rick Perry, who has not indicated yet if he will sign the measure. He is watching for a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that may come soon on the issue.

Fifteen other states ban the execution of mentally retarded killers. Five men who are classified as mentally retarded are on Texas death row awaiting execution. One of the condemned men's cases is among two pending before the nation's highest court on the issue.

Under the Texas bill, a jury that convicted a defendant of capital murder would have to determine if the person was mentally retarded. If the jury found he or she was mentally retarded, then the punishment would automatically be life imprisonment.

State Rep. Juan Hinojosa, D-McAllen, praised the compromise on the bill he wrote.

"If you are mentally retarded and don't know the difference between right and wrong, you cannot be executed," he said.

State Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, also supported the compromise measure.

"With this bill, we can prove that you can be tough on crime and still have compassionate justice, even in the wild, wild West," he said.

Some prosecutors and victims groups have been critical of the legislation.

Diane Clements, a spokeswoman for Justice for All, a Houston victims advocacy group, said the bill would lead to new appeals for murderers and create more cost and more delays.

Some civil rights groups supported an earlier version of the legislation that provided for a pre-trial hearing to determine the defendant's mental competency. They worried that waiting until the end of the trial would cloud the issue with the details of the crime.

Under the compromise, if the jury found the defendant was not mentally retarded, the judge could intervene and appoint two psychiatrists to examine the person. If they reported back that he or she was mentally retarded, the judge could overrule the jury's decision.

A recent poll found that 68 percent of Texans support the death penalty, but 81 percent of them opposed executing mentally retarded killers.

Copyright 2001 by United Press International. All rights reserved.

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A compromise was reached on the bill and after final approval in the House and Senate it will go to Republican Gov. Rick Perry, who has not indicated yet if he will sign the measure. He is watching for a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that may come soon on the issue. ...
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Thursday, 24 May 2001 12:00 AM
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